Exploring the Senses of the Cat

To understand their surroundings, cats use the five senses smell, sight, hearing, touch and taste, which are the same senses that us humans use to gather information about the world around us. Cats however, do not use these five senses the same way as we do, and while we mainly rely on our sense of sight, for cats this is not the case. In this article, we will have a closer look at the five different senses, and what role they play in the daily lives of our cats.


Cats have an excellent sense of smell, and it’s their main way of receiving information about the world around them. They use it in all aspects of their lives, from hunting, to socialising. Cats have 200 million olfactory (smell) receptors, compared to the 5 millions humans have, and because of this smell about 14 times better than we can. Dogs have an even better sense of smell than cats due their superior amount of olfactory receptors, which are about 300 million, but research has shown that cats have a better ability to distinguish between similar scents. The fine sense of smell for cats sometimes leads to litter box problems, for example when one uses a closed litter box, or scented litter as the litter box substrate.



Cats have a very sensitive sense of hearing. With being able to hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz, they can pick up frequencies higher than humans, dogs, and most other mammals. They can rotate their ears 180 degrees due to the 27 muscles that are connected to their outer ear, and hear sounds at great distances, about 4 to 5 times further away than humans can. Cats can determine the location of a sound extremely precisely by determining the intensity of the sound in relation to the time of arrival at both ears, which assist them in hunting. Hereditary deafness is more often seen in white cats, especially in combination with blue eyes, compared to cats with different coat colours.



While the primary sense of humans is sight, cats don’t nearly depend on it as much as we do. Cats can see better in low light conditions due to a larger number of receptors which detect brightness and shades of grey in their eyes, additionally they have a reflective layer at the back of the eye. Even though cats see better in poor light conditions compared to humans, A cat’s vision in total darkness is the same as ours. While it was initially thought that cats could only see black and grey, this is not the case. Cats possess two types of cones in their eyes for colour perception, making them able to see the colours blue and yellow. Cats have a wider field of vision than we humans have, and while our field of vision typically is 180o, for cats this is 200o. Cats see objects near them most clearly, with about 90 cm away being the point in their vision which is most clear. Objects further away will appear more blurry. 



Touch is an important sense for cats, and just like us they have touch receptors all over their body. A cat’s sense of touch is enhanced by their whiskers. Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are thicker and longer than normal hair and sit deeper in the skin. The whiskers are connected to muscles and nerve endings, allowing them to be moved and detect even the smallest changes in the environment, from air pressure, temperature, wind direction to air currents. Generally speaking, cats have 24 whiskers, though the amount may vary depending on breed.  The whiskers are located on the chin, above the eyes, near the ears, on the back of the forelegs, and above the upper lip. The whiskers are so sensitive, that some cats don’t like to eat from deep food bowls as they press on them, which disturbs them while eating. The whiskers should never be trimmed, and will shed on their own like the rest of the fur,  at a rate of about 2 or 3 at a time. 



The sense of taste is the cat’s weakest sense. They have about 473 taste buds, compared to the 9000 humans have. Cats can not taste sweet, but can distinguish the other four universally accepted basic tastes: sour, salt, bitter, and umami. Cats not being able to taste sweetness has everything to do with their diet, and as obligate carnivores they don’t need to eat plant-based sugars(carbs), and not being able to taste sweet prevents them  from seeking out high-carb foods that aren’t suitable for their body.


By being aware how cats perceive the world around them, we can provide them with the best care possible and promote their overall well-being. From providing a suitable litter box to prevent overstimulating their excellent sense of smell, to choosing a right plate to eat from.

If you would like to know more about our cat sitting or cat relocation services, feel free to contact us. Our team will be happy to help.

        Paw Pals Relocation Request Form

        Cat Details

        Please enter your estimated travel date

        Dog Details

        Please enter your estimated travel date

        Travel Carrier

        Please enter the size of your Travel Carrier in centimetres

        Pet Dimensions

        Please measure your pet in centimetres

        A Value = Length of the pet from the tip of nose to the root of the tail

        B Value = Height from the ground to the top of the leg or elbow joint

        C Value = Width across right and left shoulders

        D Value = Height of the pet in their natural standing position from the ground to the top of the head or the tip of the ear in erect ear breeds (for a cat you might find it easier to measure the height whilst the cat is sitting with their head erect)

        Please note: We do advise that one of our specialists visits your home to measure your pet, as small differences in dimensions can have a significant impact on the cost.